Return Fire! Shaka Smart Goes On ESPN, Says Joe Lunardi Is Not “Be All And End All” Of Bracketology

  • Dan Fogarty

When VCU Rams head coach Shaka Smart appeared on ESPN2 this morning, he was clearly prepared to fight if he had to.

At some point, Smart knew it would come up: that, despite a so-so resume, his VCU Rams were selected to the NCAA tournament, even after going 3-5 in February. And although ESPN wasn’t the only critic of VCU’s selection, they were by far the most vocal, with analyst Jay Bilas calling their selection “indefensible.”

So he may have felt, at least on some level, that he was on enemy territory. Or, at the very least, that he was dealing with a media outlet that may not respect his program.

Which explains why Smart played his ace-in-the-hole in an interview on First Take this morning.

“Let me explain to you how it tends to work, and I’m trying not to get upset and keep poised here,” Smart said. “All of you at ESPN tend to go by what Joe Lunardi says and I understand that. He is the bracketologist and resident expert at ESPN. But he is not the be all and end all of selecting the NCAA tournament. We felt good all week long because another bracketologist, Jerry Palm, who happens to always get it right, had us in all along.”

Yep, he went there. “Hey guys: you got it wrong, and CBS’ guy got it right.” (Jerry Palm is CBS Sports’ bracket expert). Watch video here, courtesy of ESPN2.

All of this is moot now: VCU is in the Final Four, and no one can take that away from them. And for what it’s worth, First Take host Jay Crawford wasn’t even asking about VCU’s selection – he was actually asking about their run to Houston. Crawford was also sure to note that “everyone here,” meaning in the First Take studio, was awed by their run.

Smart, however, was (rightfully) sensitive, and even invoked a competing bracketologist (gasp!) to make his case. The fact that a head coach is still defending his team’s selection to the tournament, despite being in the Final Four, is telling.